Woman with Japanese encephalitis improves

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am


The condition of a 20-year-old Tin Shui Wai woman with Japanese encephalitis improved from serious to stable yesterday, but her neighbours called for the hygiene department to step up mosquito controls.

A large-scale anti-mosquito-spraying operation was carried out in the Yuen Long district yesterday, while 21 residents were given blood tests at a health department station.

One expert speculated that the deadly mosquito-transmitted disease had already been spreading in the area.

University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said that statistically, only one in 300 people infected by the virus would develop serious symptoms, meaning the scope of infection could be larger.

In most cases, only a mild infection occurs, causing slight fever and a headache.

However, local residents 'were in a panic after the case was announced', district councillor Ken Chow Wing-kan said.

Mosquito controls had been carried out just once a month around the estate where the patient lives, a known hygiene black spot, said Chow.

He said the authorities should step up mosquito controls to at least once a week, and clear the weeds and ditches in the neighbourhood more frequently.

Blood tests and information are available at the health station set up in Tin Shui Community Centre, Tin Shui Wai, until Sunday. A hotline received nine inquiries yesterday.

No more cases of Japanese encephalitis had been reported and people in contact with the patient had not shown any symptoms, a department spokeswoman said.

The patient, who has been in Tuen Mun Hospital since July 1, yesterday left intensive care.

It is the first Japanese encephalitis case in the city this year. Fewer than 10 cases have been reported in the past 10 years, with the most recent last year, also occurring in Yuen Long.

Japanese encephalitis is more common in rural and agricultural areas in Asia, and has caused epidemics in mainland China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand in the past.

Typical symptoms such as a headache, high fever, stiff neck and impaired mental ability usually start at around four to 14 days after being infected.

Death rates range from five to 35 per cent, and patients who recover from the infection may suffer neurological consequences.